I was absolutely gutted this past February 17 to learn that Françoise Cactus, singer, multi-instrumentalist and, along with Brezel Göring, one half of Franco-German duo Stereo Total, had succumbed to cancer. As anyone who knows me well knows, this Berlin-based low-fi powerhouse had long been my favourite band, ever since I had first been introduced to them many moons ago by my favourite barmaid in my favourite pub in Poland, where a few years later, I also saw them play.
The Rock Band Stereo Total
Now, at this point, I could go on about Françoise’s superbly seductive singing; Stereo Total’s unique blend of “punk rock, rock and roll, disco music, crazy electronic music and r-r-r-r-r-rockabilly” sung primarily in French, German and English; or how Françoise, in her Gallic handwriting, once told me that I was “the hottest” after a different gig a few years later. However, I won’t because I’m meant to be banging on about videos and in that regard Stereo Total’s official clips are as eclectic and entertaining as their audio offering.
Take, for example, the video to Zu Schön für Dich and its tongue-in-cheek pastiche of early 20th century horror flicks. Think the Munsters meet the Addams Family but with an anthemic chorus, nicely picked guitars and a pair of grapefruit breasts.
Eyeballs Not Fruit
Likewise shot in black and white, or monochrome to sound fancy, the video to Touche-moi again features sexually playful tit-based touches, albeit using big-lashed fake eyeballs as opposed to items of fruit. However, with its grainy home-movie aesthetic, the feel here is far more underground-artsy, as though Andy Warhol had upped sticks and shipped The Factory in its prime to a squat in East Berlin.
Cigs, Sex and Stereo Total
As you may have gathered, sex was a recurring element within Stereo Total’s videos, although it was never portrayed gratuitously in the manner of many a modern mainstream music vid. This is abundantly clear in the excellent video for Ich bin der Stricherjunge. Similarly directed by Sim Gil and employing a pretty sizeable cast of Berlin punks as streetwalkers of both sexes, this full-colour vid not only features an Ian Curtis lookalike in the lead, but also the finest choreographed chain smoking scenes ever captured on camera.
A Stereo Total Morality Play
But while the sight of Brezel as a bandana-bedecked rent boy and Françoise as a trumpet-playing strumpet might understandably whip you into a frothing frenzy, please be warned: we tread a rocky path when we heed the whims of the lower mind too much. OK, dismiss such notions if you wish, but certainly anyone thinking of buying a pair of soiled knickers purportedly worn by a Japanese school girl should first watch the video for Tanzen im 4-eck before clicking that buy button and most definitely before slapping them on their head.
Shot on a Shoestring
Not that everyone has such cash to be chucking around in the first place, mind. And on that note, check out the video to Einfach Kompliziert. With its hand-drawn graphics, dazzlingly basic effects and utter lack of colour grading, this vid is as DIY as it gets. Looking like it was shot in someone’s kitchen one Sunday afternoon, it’s not the sort of thing you’d imagine the bigwigs behind Beyoncé commissioning, but the result is both highly effective and enjoyable nonetheless.
Yep, if you’re looking to make an engaging vid on a shoestring, it might be wise to watch that particular clip for inspiration value alone. Of course, ahem, you’d be even wiser to swing by Ninjin Art as well. All budgets and genres considered, yeah?
Of course, there’s a shedtonne of other Stereo Total clips to be savoured on the Internet, ranging from proper-job promos to French-film-themed fan vids. But if you never caught sight of them live, you might want to check out the following gig footage. Stereo Total flippin’ rock. Merci beaucoup and God bless you, Françoise. You will be sorely missed indeed.
Notes and Credits
Meanwhile, to learn more about Stereo Total, have a gander round the band’s website, perhaps starting with the bio page here. Man, I like their style.
Picture credit: Stereo Total in a recent press photo by Paul Cabine (source).